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Highlights of Downtown Nashville Walking Tour
Item 8 of 33

The five-story brick building at 211 7th Ave. N was built for the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in 1911 and served that purpose until 1978. The official opening ceremonies were held on May 9th, 1911, and included vocal performances, speeches, and prayers. The facility gradually became racially integrated in the 1960s. The YWCA building was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1982; in that same year, the structure was renovated and became the Jacques Miller Office Building. Plans were announced in 2021 to renovate the building once again into a boutique hotel. The YWCA building is the last of a group of buildings built in Nashville in the early 1900s as Christian athletic facilities.

Lower floors of front of YWCA building, looking west across 7th Ave. N. (Larry Mullican for NRHP)

Window, Building, White, Black

East (front) & south sides of YWCA building in 1982, looking northwest (Mullican)

Building, Window, Sky, Tower block

Reception area inside YWCA building in 1982 photo, looking west from entrance (Mullican)

Property, White, Light, Black

YWCA building (green arrow) on 1914 Sanborn map (Vol. 1 p. 6)

Schematic, Map, Font, Material property

YWCA building with additions (diagonal lines) on ca. 1980 survey plat; NRHP nomination figure (Garton 1982)

Schematic, Building, Rectangle, Font

The Young Women's Christian Association originated in England in 1855. An International Division was established in 1894. Women living in or visiting Nashville banded together in the 1890s to form a local chapter. The local group first met in November 1898 at Nashville's Maxwell House Hotel and was headed by a local Presbyterian minister, Reverend James I. Vance. One week later, the group met again at the Young Men's Christian Association Building in Nashville; later meetings took place in several rooms above Thompson's store. In 1899, the group received affiliation with the national YWCA. The YWCA purchased the lot for their first permanent home in Nashville in 1908, just two blocks away from the State Capitol. By 1910, $90,000 had been raised for the new building. Shattuck and Hussey, a Chicago architectural firm, designed the Georgian Revival style building. Local brickmakers Bush Building Company supplied the bricks for the veneer of the steel and concrete framed structure. Foster Herbert Stone provided limestone for the exterior details, like the keystone above each front window and a belt course above the first story. Otis Elevator was hired to install an elevator.

The YWCA featured rooms for single white women to board for one dollar per night; this included the first two meals of the day at the cafeteria. A library, gymnasium, and swimming pool kept members or guests occupied. An employment service helped find jobs, and classes were offered including literature, penmanship, Bible study, and mental hygiene. A local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy used to rent a room in the building for their meetings from the late 1910s to the late 1920s.

This Central Branch of the YWCA was not racially integrated until the 1960s. A separate YWCA for African American women was established in 1919 as the Blue Triangle League and was later renamed the Blue Triangle Branch of the Nashville YWCA. The Blue Triangle Branch met at facilities several blocks east of the Central Branch (436 Fifth Avenue N.) in a building purchased in 1921. Besides club activities, classes, and social gatherings, the Blue Triangle Branch offered lodging for single African American women. A new headquarters for the Blue Triangle Branch was constructed at 1708 Pearl St. and was dedicated in 1953. The Blue Triangle and Central branches merged in 1964, beginning with their lunch counters and following over the next several years with the classes offered. The residences at the Central Branch were fully integrated by 1967. The Pearl St. building stopped being used for classes in 1968 and was sold in 1974 to the Grace M. Eaton Day Home. The archives of the Blue Triangle Branch from 1919 to 1980 are held at the Nashville Public Library.

A Nashville entrepreneur named Mike Shmerling acquired the former YWCA building in 1999 and sold it to Two Capital, an Atlanta firm, in 2019. A San Francisco-based company, Sonder USA Inc. planned to operate a 56-unit boutique hotel from the building once renovations are complete, according to the local newspaper article from March 2021.

Garton, Rex. NRHP nomination of Young Women's Christian Association, Nashville, Tennessee. National Register. Washington, DC. National Park Service, 1982.

Metropolitan Historic Zoning Commission. Staff Recommendation, 209-213 7th Ave N, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. December 16th, 2020. Accessed October 21st, 2022.

Nashville Public Library. YWCA Blue Triangle Branch Collection, 1919-1980, Nashville Public Library Special Collections. December 4th, 2018. Accessed October 20th, 2022.

Williams, William. "Ex-YWCA building slated for hotel." Nashville Post (Nashville) March 31st, 2021. online ed, Business sec.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

National Park Service (NPS):



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